Standing Rock Sioux protest pipeline's proximity to water source
BISMARCK, N.D. >> A ruling in the request by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to stop a four-state oil pipeline under construction near their reservation will come by Sept. 9, a federal judge said Wednesday.
The tribe is challenging the Army Corps of Engineers' decision to grant permits for Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners' $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline, which crosses through four states, including near the reservation that straddles the North Dakota-South Dakota border. U.S. District Judge James Boasberg listened to arguments and said he'd rule next month.
Also Wednesday, Dakota Access was told by the Iowa Utilities Board to stay away from the properties of 15 Iowa landowners until Monday to give board time to review legal issues involving a lawsuit.
The $3.8 billion pipeline, which will run 1,172 miles through Iowa, Illinois, North Dakota and South Dakota, has generated legal challenges and protests, most aggressively in North Dakota and Iowa. Growing protests and increased tension over the pipeline that will cross the Missouri River near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation has led to more than two dozen arrests, including tribal chairman Dave Archambault II.
He said he would continue to call for calm at the protest site. "I'm asking that we proceed with prayer and with peace," Archambault said. "Tribes from across the nation have united and I would hope Dakota Access does not continue with construction with the destruction of land before (the judge's ruling)."
The tribe's lawsuit, filed last month on behalf of the tribe by environmental group Earthjustice, said the project violates several federal laws, including the National Historic Preservation Act. The tribe also argues the project will harm water supplies and disturb ancient sacred sites outside of the 2.3-million acre reservation.
The pipeline's owners agreed last week to halt construction near the reservation until Wednesday's hearing, but it's unclear whether that construction is still on hold.
"The judge clearly understands the issues at stake," said Jan Hasselman, an Earthjustice attorney. "There are thousands of people out there who are going to be very upset if they try to move ahead while the judge considers this issue."
Corps spokeswoman Eileen Williamson said she couldn't comment on the lawsuit. She previously said that the agency's review of the pipeline found "no significant impacts to the environment or historic properties."
Wednesday's hearing in Washington, D.C., attracted dozens of protesters, including actresses Susan Sarandon and Shailene Woodley, who spent nearly three weeks at the North Dakota protest. Sarandon said the pipeline creates a "dangerous situation" that threatens the tribe's drinking water.
"Everyone needs water and I'm very grateful to the Standing Rock Tribe for making this clear that this has to stop," Sarandon told The Associated Press. "Now it's our turn to support them and make things right."
Energy Transfer Partners officials didn't return The Associated Press' phone calls or emails Wednesday seeking comment.
Earlier Wednesday, the Iowa board told Dakota Access that it must to provide detailed information about the construction progress in the state, as well as more information about costs the company will incur if it's required to work around the landowner's parcels. Dakota Access previously estimated the cost to move construction crews and equipment around the 15 parcels at more than $500,000 for each.
The Iowa Utilities Board will hear arguments Thursday on the landowners' motion to halt construction on their properties until a court can rule on their lawsuit, which challenges the board's authority to allow forced condemnation of farmland for a privately owned pipeline project under eminent domain laws.
Earlier this month in Iowa, construction equipment at several construction sites was set on fire, causing more than $1 million in damage. Protest groups in the state denied responsibility, but said they plan to continue peaceful demonstrations against the project.